First vaccines arrive in South Africa

(l-r) Health Minister Mkhize, Deputy President Mabuza, President Ramaphosa and Deputy High Commissioner of India Chakraborty at OR Tambo airport receiving the first batch of vaccines. (Photo: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS)

1 February 2021

South Africa has officially received its first shipment of one million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.

The Emirates cargo carrying the first batch of the lifesaving jabs from India touched down at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday afternoon.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, together with his Deputy David Mabuza, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Vaccines, and Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize witnessed the momentous occasion. India’s Deputy Head of Mission to South Africa, Abhijit Chakraborty was also present at this momentous occasion.

Plastic-wrapped bundles of the in-demand vaccine were off-loaded from the plane into the unmarked refrigerated trucks. They were then transported to a cold room lab where they will undergo quality checks, which may take between 10 and 14 days after which government will kick start its three-phase mass inoculation campaign where healthcare workers are first in line to receive the vaccine.

South Africa procured 1.5 million vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII), licensed to produce a vaccine that has been developed by the multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in collaboration with the University of Oxford.

The second batch is scheduled to arrive later this month.

According to government, Biovac will play an important role in the quality assurance, warehousing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
President Ramaphosa has described the consignment as the start of the vaccine rollout, which he describes as the largest and most complex logistical vaccine undertaking in South Africa’s history.

“The scale of delivery is unprecedented in terms of the number of people who have to be reached within a short space of time.”

Government said the goal of the vaccination programme is to achieve immunity across the population.

The State aims to vaccinate 40 million South Africans to ensure that the population has the immunity it needs to fight COVID-19, which has already claimed over 44 000 lives in the country.